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When Parity Promotes Peace: Resolving Conflict Between Asymmetric Agents

Kimbrough, Erik and Sheremeta, Roman and Shields, Timothy (2013): When Parity Promotes Peace: Resolving Conflict Between Asymmetric Agents. Forthcoming in: Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization

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Due to the high costs of conflict both in theory and practice, we examine and experimentally test the conditions under which conflict between asymmetric agents can be resolved. We model conflict as a two-agent rent-seeking contest for an indivisible prize. Before conflict arises, both agents may agree to allocate the prize by fair coin flip to avoid the costs of conflict. The model predicts that “parity promotes peace”: in the pure-strategy equilibrium, agents with relatively symmetric conflict capabilities agree to resolve the conflict by using a random device; however, with sufficiently asymmetric capabilities, conflicts are unavoidable because the stronger agent prefers to fight. The results of the experiment confirm that the availability of the random device partially eliminates conflicts when agents are relatively symmetric; however, the device also reduces conflict between substantially asymmetric agents.

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